Mackenzie A. Dilbeck
NORMAN — In May the University of Oklahoma College of Law celebrated the Class of 2017’s graduation, marking the first year an OU Law class collectively completed the school’s Digital Initiative programming, and making the college the first law school in the nation to do so. In 2014, the graduating class’ first year of law school, OU Law embarked on its college-wide Digital Initiative.
“At OU Law, today is the future of legal education,” said OU Law Dean Joseph Harroz Jr. “Across all disciplines, technology is accelerating the pace of education like never before, which is why we launched the nation’s first comprehensive college-wide Digital Initiative. Our newest alumni are the products of an innovative and unique approach to integrating technology into all areas of legal education. They joined us in this experiment and helped us push it to the success it is today.”
The college’s Digital Initiative is built around three core elements: the common platform of the iPad, given to students at no cost; a digital training curriculum that educates OU Law students to use technology for productivity and practice; and the Inasmuch Foundation Collaborative Learning Center, a state-of-the-art space dedicated to connecting students to one another, and to the people and societies they will serve.
“When we started this three years ago, we had the framework of a plan, knowing that the nature of technology advancements would require us to adapt,” said Harroz. “As opportunities for the use of technology in the legal profession grow, we continue to adjust our approach so that our students have the most competitive advantage as they enter their careers.”
The immersive training curriculum is designed and implemented by Associate Dean Darin Fox and Digital Resources Librarian Kenton Brice. Fox has decades of experience in IT management and legal research expertise. Brice’s background consists of administering law firm technology to enhance efficiency in all aspects of professional and legal work. Together, Fox and Brice make up the team that oversees the creation, management and execution of OU Law’s Digital Initiative programming.
Each year, the college offers more than 50 different types of training sessions that explore apps that aid in legal practice such as TrialPad, Firm Central and Drafting Essentials. Several sessions feature leading experts at tech companies such as Apple. This year, more than 2,500 attendees participated in the training sessions, a new record up from 2,000 last year.
Located in the main entrance to the college’s Donald E. Pray Law Library, the Inasmuch Foundation Collaborative Learning Center represents a transformation from traditional legal research and study to 21st century skills development and collaboration. The space features two virtual reality stations; four new multimedia study rooms; a flipped seminar classroom; a fully-equipped computer lab with dual-monitor stations; moveable whiteboard desks and stands; Brody WorkLounges; a “genius station” for research support; a café; and cooperative learning spaces for student collaboration.
Student adoption of and satisfaction with OU Law’s Digital Initiative is evident. From record-setting training session participation – the average OU Law student attends an average of six sessions each year – to extensive usage of the Inasmuch Foundation CLC, students are taking advantage of all OU Law’s Digital Initiative has to offer. More than 97 percent of students rank their satisfaction with the Digital Initiative as satisfied or very satisfied.
“The Digital Initiative has provided an opportunity to learn how modern technology both simplifies the practice of law and enhances it,” said Class of 2017 OU Law alumnus Simon Bright. “It has helped refine my skills and will make me a better advocate for clients as I enter practice. My future clients can have greater confidence in my abilities knowing less time will be spent on mastering technology and more time fulfilling their needs.”
The college is careful to pursue opportunities that will provide longevity to students’ digital preparedness. The administration continually seeks and invests in innovative platforms and tools that will aid graduates, their future employers and the wider legal community.
“We know how valuable this effort is to our students’ future careers and those they will serve,” said Harroz. “That’s why we continue to invest in it, providing a range of opportunities that go beyond their time as students. We are the first law school in the country to provide access to a suite of practice-ready tools, including Westlaw, for our graduates for 18 months after they leave OU Law. This digital gift is easily worth $10,000 per graduate.”
OU Law has also partnered with Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (LTC4), a nonprofit that has established legal technology core competencies and certification that all law firms can use to measure ongoing efficiency improvements. OU Law is the first law school in the country to offer LTC4 certifications.
“Our Digital Initiative is centered on the student and the student experience,” said Harroz. “We’re focused in our task of providing the highest quality legal education at an affordable cost, while simultaneously offering cutting-edge educational opportunities that set our students apart. We already had the best students in the country. Now, they’re the most technologically prepared when they enter the legal profession.”
To learn more about OU Law’s Digital Initiative, visit http://bit.ly/OULawDigitalInitiative.
Founded in 1909, the OU College of Law is Oklahoma’s premier law school. OU Law offers small sections and class sizes that encourage a strong sense of community; accomplished faculty with international expertise; and a state-of-the-art facility equipped with the latest technology. The OU College of Law is the academic home of more than 500 students enrolled in the juris doctor program, the John B. Turner Master of Laws Program, the master of legal studies program and various dual degree programs. For more information about OU Law, visit law.ou.edu.